14 December 2012

Overview of the 2012 FMQ Challenge

SewCalGal hosted an incredible quilt challenge this year where we had an expert quilter every month who gave a tutorial on their particular field of free motion quilting.  I knew very little about this art when we started in January and was so excited to begin this course. 

Oh my goodness, words just cannot describe what I learned during this course.  What I was able to produce each month tells the story!  I gained confidence in myself; that I could do it and with practice it actually got better.  I enjoyed reading about each tutor when SewCalGal introduced them at the beginning of the tutorial and they became more than just names I had heard of.  I learned more about basic essentials needed to make free motion quilting easier to handle - from adjusting my chair to the correct height to using a "Supreme Slider", gloves and bobbin washers that I ordered from Leah Day.  Wow what a difference they made. We were encouraged to try different threads, in fact my variety of threads has grown so much that I've had to buy additonal containers for them all.  We were encouraged to try different battings.  Unfortunately where we live in South Africa, I do not have access to the many battings that are available in the States or UK, so these are definitely on my bucket list for ordering online.  Learning about the different needles I found very interesting too.  My favourite now is the titanium 80/12 for doing free motion. 

Free motion quilting has become my passion; feathers and swirls are my favourites and I've already used them in many of my projects.  As a young child learns to write, the formation of the letters change as they practice and gain more confidence.  The same applies to free motion quilting - you develop your own style after a while which becomes unique to you.

And now I would love to show you what I have achieved this year. My very sincere thanks go to you SewCal Gal.  I know that it has taken much of your time and effort, not to mention the expense and time away from your precious family to host this year of  FMQ tutorials.  Hopefully you will find rest over the festive season!

Challenge Quilt 2012

I would love to sneak in a photo of a quilt I have recently completed putting all I have learned this year into practice, using many different stitches we have learned.  I pieced it with a lot of negative space to show the quilting.  It has pride of place in my lounge!
Chocolat et Creme



12 December 2012

FMQ - December

Oh boy, was I looking forward to this month's challenge by Patsy Thompson; and it did not disappoint!  I enjoy Patsy's website and have watched and learned so much from her video tutorials.  What an exciting world.

She taught us that the border zones of a quilt are special areas in that they act as frames for whatever is inside them.  What a lovely way to put it!  Multiple borders quilted in different designs and the way they will interact with each other will add a new richness to a quilt.  Here is an example of different border designs she so kindly gave us to download.  I love the look of those feathers - so different.


Here is my final December fmq done on my Challenge Quilt.  My entry falls under her number 3 of her challenge to us.  Unfortunately when I made this "challenge quilt" in January, I did not put enough thought into the fabric that I chose for the border as it's difficult to see the quilted design, but if you click on the photo it does enlarge it and is a little clearer.

Challenge Quilt 2012

Here is a close up of a corner but still not very clear.

Top right corner

Here is a shot of the back showing a little of the border where the feathers are clearer.

Back of quilt

Well, sadly this was the last of 12 months of wonderful tutorials on perfecting our free motion quilting skills.  A huge thank you to SewCalGal for your time and effort you have put into organizing  professional teachers who have kindly given of their time and expertise to share their knowledge of this exciting art.  My fmq skills have certainly surpassed my expectations and the confidence I have in myself to produce beautiful work (I'm still getting there), is beyond thanks!  And of course the many lovely "friends" I have made along the way.....hopefully we have all been an encouragement to each other.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a quiltfull 2013!


29 November 2012

FMQ - November

The November FMQ Challenge, which is hosted by SewCalGal, was given by quilt expert Sarah Vedeler.  As one of her favourite quilting designs is "Spirals" this is what she had us do!  We could print off a page of spirals to trace over to get the feel of how they were stitched.  I have many pages of spirals scattered all over the house as I practiced and practiced and .... practiced!  Here is my final group of spirals which I stitched on my Challenge quilt.

I drew parallel lines measuring 1 inch and 2 inches in which to stitch the spirals.  The last column of spirals is stitched travelling on the same line to come out which gives a totally different look.  Mmm I quite like these ones!

The following are the usual sketching practice pages.

Printed page for practice

My attempt at free hand

Stitching on FMQ Challenge Quilt

Thank you Sarah for your great tutorial and for giving us the printed pages on which to practice.  I really believe they made a huge difference in stitching our final pieces.

Thank you SewCalGal for the huge effort and time you have spent on hosting this challenge.  I look forward to December to see how the borders and finishing will be done. 

30 October 2012

FMQ - October

This month our fmq expert was Teri Lucas who lives in New York City.  I do hope she has been safe while "Sandy" has been wreaking havoc along the east coast of USA.  She suggested we use a piece of silk or silk/satin/cotton this month.  I stuck with my ready made challenge piece which of course is cotton so obviously I wouldn't get the same effect of the shine that the silk or satin would give.  Anyway, I am still quite satisfied with the result although I must say that dividing and conquering is not my cup of tea!  I don't really like the tiny fiddly bits of quilting.  That said, I enjoyed doing my bit and it certainly gets the imagination working overtime and getting one out of one's comfort zone!

We were to write our name more or less in the center, echo around it and then do various designs all around it.  What I did enjoy was doing the feather without a spine.  Now that was fantastic and suited my passion down to the ground!  Also we were to use different coloured thread and different weights of thread.  I used what I had in my thread collection; mostly Colorful Embroidery thread.  The red for my name is an Isacord.  Here in South Africa, the weight of the thread is not written on the reel so I'm not able to record it.  So here is my finished piece.

See those little nautilus shells.  That was different!

Thank you to Teri and SewCalGal for this interesting challenge.

26 September 2012

Elna eXcellence 720

I have recently been very spoiled with a brand new sewing machine.  Isn't it beautiful!

It has a wide throat area for quilting large quilts and a wide variety of embroidery stitches.  It has an ingenious attachment for sewing button holes.  The button is put into position in the special foot, select the buttonhole switch and the buttonhole is stitched according to the size of the button!  The magnetic pin thingy is my own and didn't come with the machine.  It comes from Day Style Designs in the USA.


It came with a flatbed table with a handy little drawer in which to keep the accessory box and spare bobbins.  Thank goodness for the knee lifter which I had got so used to on my Bernina.

There are canvass pockets on either side, inside and out, for storing manuals and other whatnots!

Here is a side view showing the pockets on the side.  I have placed the table up against my original long table which gives a bigger area when quilting large quilts.

Here is a view of my sewing room - rather untidy though!  My 45 year old Elna Automatic still sews beautifully and I use it for piecing when my new one is set up for free motion quilting.  The gate-legged table in the corner opens up to give me more surface area when quilting.

I am one spoiled girl and I hope to produce some stunning quilts in time for everyone to enjoy!

Chocolat et Creme

I have just this week finished a wall hanging with a lot of negative space where I've been able to do some free motion quilting.  I'm very pleased with how it has turned out and was excited to use some of Ann Peterson's techniques which she taught in her tutorial, "Beyond Basic Machine Quilting".  The pieced pattern was designed by Joanna Figueroa and appears in her book, "Fresh Vintage Sewing".  It hangs on a brass rod above our television.

Chocolat et Creme

  Here are a few close ups of the stitching.

Centre with beading

The center block I have used beads from my girls' wedding dresses.
A view of a corner

This is a view of one of the corners to show the feathering.  I have micro-stippled all around the feather.

This quilt was sewn on my new machine, an Elna 720.  Photos of it can be found under "Elna 720"!

19 September 2012

FMQ - September

This month's quilting expert was Paula Reid.  She is the owner of "Batts in the Attic" quilting studio where she has designed many patterns.  Paula loves doing beautiful free motion quilting on large quilts using a domestic sewing machine and her "fluff and stuff" method makes so much sense!  You can watch her video here.

She provided us with a stencil of a fancy feather design to fit in an 8" block.  It was not a continuous line design so some backtracking was needed.  I first quilted the circle, then the inside feathers followed by the outer feathers.  I used Don Linn's technique which we learned in the April tutorial to transfer the design on to my fabric.  Here is my finished design.

Fancy Feather Design

I used a variegated thread to quilt the inner and outer feathers and a green Colorful embroidery thread to do the four corner groups of feathers which I thought could be leaves!  But this is my interpretation of the design!  I finished off with quilting pebbles in my favorite gold Colorful embroidery thread around the outside and red "trellis" work in the centre.  I used a titanium 80/12 needle.

Thank you Paula Reid and SewCalGal for a most informative tutorial.

24 August 2012

FMQ - August

We were really spoiled this month!  Wendy Sheppard aka Ivory Spring, was our tutor and I had been looking forward to this month from January!  Wendy does magnificent work.   She is originally from south east Asia but now lives in the US.  She graduated from university with a degree in Chemical Engineering and worked as a researcher in the world's largest ultra-low wind velocity tunnel in the world.  She has been quilting for about 7 years and her passion is free-motion quilting!!  She is now teaching quilting and her work has appeared in various magazines.

I have followed Wendy's blog, "Ivory Spring" for some time now and have regularly used her fmq designs which she so generously shares, with wonderful sketches showing exactly how to do the stitches.

Her tutorial for us was "Jester's Hats".  This was quite a tricky design to begin with but after the usual drawing and practicing on a quilt sandwich, the penny suddenly dropped and I was able to get into the swing of things!  Here is my finished challenge block.

Jester's Hats

I used a beautiful gold "Colorful" embroidery thread in my regular 80/12 needle with "I'm not sure what" in the bobbin!   This was a fun design to do and I will definitely be using it again in a quilt.  

Here is a close-up of the stitching-

And the usual drawing and practice pieces.

Thank you Wendy for sharing your wonderful ideas in the tutorial and also on your blog.  I look forward to your e-mails every day!

8 August 2012

Table Topper

Just finished a disappearing 9-patch using "Tea Cakes",  6 inch charms by Verna Mosquera for Free Spirit Fabrics.  I thought it would make a nice table topper for my next bookclub meeting.  I wonder how my Royal Albert tea set will look on it!?

Laid out on the snow we had today


A close-up of the quilting which I have practiced from the fmq challenge so far.

My "Winter Wonderland" garden

Add caption

17 July 2012

FMQ - July

The July challenge was given by Angela Walters whom I have followed for quite a while and always admired for her beautiful work.  Apart from teaching and hosting retreats, Angela is a professional quilter who quilts for many large companies including the Robert Kaufman Fabric Company.  She has also written two books.

The quilting design for this month is called "Tiles" which could be used in a border or in negative space as long as it is not too small an area.  Angela used a "swirl" design in her sample and I can assure you this is not the easiest of designs to do!  It took many hours of practice after which I still wasn't very happy but towards the end of my final piece, I thought it was passable!  Also to quilt the straight lines of the tiles was a challenge in itself.  I had to resort to a ruler and wash-out marker to make them line up. 

Here is my final piece which I present for the July challenge.

Tiles filled with swirls

As usual I started with pencil and paper marking direction of quilting with arrows....


then did a few practice pieces - here is one....

Thank you Angela for providing this tutorial.  It was really more difficult than it looks and provided a great challenge.  Thank you also to SewCalGal for the opportunity.

Argh those swirls really got to me!  Anyway, after completing my challenge piece and while my mind was still in "swirl" gear, I decided to give them a go on a hand pieced ufo, and yes I know, I know..... many say that you just do not machine quilt something that has been hand pieced, but this Spool quilt had been put aside for the past two years and periodically taken out and had a bit of hand quilting done on it.  Unfortunately I had used a chintz on the back and this made it very difficult to quilt by hand, so to just get it done I decided to put it under my machine and go for it.  At least it is finished as I really don't like having unfinished quilts put away in cupboards!

And here it is....

Spool Quilt with swirls

Thank you for taking a looky and will see you again in August.  I wonder what lies ahead for us next month?

1 July 2012

New Books

1 July 2012

I am so excited to received some lovely new quilting books.  These 3 were on special from Martingale.

Martingale Publishers

I have so many Charm packs in my stash that I needed some new ideas of how to use them and "Charmed I'm Sure" has lots of lovely new quilt patterns to make.  I've always preferred the lovely old original quilt patterns and this is what "Fresh Vintage Sewing" is all about.  "Reversible Vests" is quite self-explanatory.  Mmm can't wait to get into this one!

The books in the bottom pic are from C&T Publishers.  SewCalGal put a post on her website that they were having a very special sale on their books ranging from $3 to $5. Shipping on these books was $30!  Oh well, the price we pay to live in the best country in the world is still worth it!!  Note the "Sophisticated Stitches" in the foreground - this is by Don Linn who gave us our March FMQ tutorial.  It has some really super designs.

C&T Publishers

Oh goodness the temptation to get into these books is so enticing, but I have 3 waistcoats to sew for a wedding so these must come first!  Thanks for stopping by....

I have typed this whole page with one hand as my little snow white kitten is on my lap and she complains when I stop stroking her.  Spoiled rotten!  DH wants to know why he doesn't get the same treatment but of course he's not as furry! 

Blogging with Snowball

28 June 2012

FMQ - June

Cindy, you really got the creative juices flowing this month!  Cindy Needham gave us our "challenge" this month and really got us thinking "out of the box".  Thank you for letting me run free to be creative and to "just do my own thing"!  

What we had to do this month was to draw swirls across the page and fill in the patterns that developed with our own quilting design most appropriate for the space.  I found it quite a challenge when I started, but as I got going with fabric and machine, the ideas really flowed.  It was all very well practicing on paper but when I started with my challenge fabric, it was a different story!

I must say that I managed the "Hummmm Purrrrr" of my machine a good few months back, really only recognizing now that that is a wonderful way of describing what you hear with your sewing machine when you are doing free motion quilting ie. the correct speed with the design you are sewing.  In other words the rhythm and sound of your machine.

Cindy encouraged us to use the three basic shapes in free motion quilting - the repetitive line, a circle and an S-curve.  Strong geometrics and soft flowing designs are a good combo and compliment each other.  While we strive to make our quilts as beautiful and perfect as possible, remember that this world is a more interesting place because nothing is perfect and straight and this is how we should feel about our quilts.  Don't stress unduly over them, we have enough stress in our lives.  They can be imperfect and beautiful!  Whew, that took a load off my shoulders!!  We were given lots of tips while quilting and I would suggest reading them here for heaps of information. 

Here is my entry for June's challenge.

Divided and Conquered!

First of all came the doodling....

Cindy's printed swirls on which to practice
My "doodles"

Here are a few close-ups taken of my final entry.

Thank you Cindy for "stretching" me and sharing your ideas and suggestions.  And thank you once again SewCalGal for giving us the opportunity to learn from world class quilters!